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Matti Bunzl's Blog

The Virtual Body: Second Life

Here is another event I’m really excited about. We invited my fellow anthropologist Tom Boellstorff to speak at the CHF about “The Virtual Body.” This sounds pretty cool as it is – but what is really amazing is that the event will take us into an alternative world: Second Life.

Tom Boellstorff

Tom Boellstorff

As those of you reading this blog probably know, Second Life is a virtual world that allows users, called Residents, to interact with one another through avatars. Folks develop elaborate identities in this world, allowing them to socialize and participate in all kinds of activities with one another. Residents can even get rich – there is virtual property and virtual money. To those of us outside that world, myself included, it sounds completely fantastical – which, in a way, it is.

So Tom is an anthropologist – and he wrote the first book-length study of Second Life, or any virtual world for that matter. It is called Coming of Age in Second Life (which is a clever pun on Margaret Mead’s breakthrough book Coming of Age in Samoa) – and it has garnered a huge amount of attention.

Coming of Age

Coming of Age in Second Life

At CHF, Tom will give a lecture on his work, focusing particularly on the question of the body in Second Life. Residents have control over the physical representation of their avatars; and that creates some pretty fascinating constellations in terms of body politics, including a rather fluid situation in regard to race, gender, and sexuality.

Tom will talk to us about this at CHF – but what is really incredible to the non-techies like myself is that his lecture will happen SIMULTANEOUSLY in Second Life. There, Tom’s avatar – Tom Bukowski – will give a lecture in one of Second Life’s many virtual meeting places. That lecture will be attended by Second Life Residents who will be able to interact with our “real” audience through some amazing devices that our tech wizards are currently developing (and which I am bound to never fully understand…).

But the upshot is this: Tom’s lecture will happen at one and the same time in First and Second Life, bringing the two together through the magic of CHF. Wow!


Special Event

The Virtual Body
Coming of Age in Second Life

#316: Sat, Nov. 6 2:30 - 3:30 PM

Tags: Second Life, technology, anthropology, virtual, The Body

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